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Local groups make last minute push to grow medical marijuana

As New York State prepares to choose who will get the right to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana, some local applicants are making a last-minute publicity push in hopes of being selected.

Herbal Agriculture LLC on Friday highlighted its connections with Colorado-based Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises, which is experienced in medical marijuana, and Dent Neurologic Institute in Amherst, which would bring a research dimension. Representatives of Stanley Brothers and Dent said they each were working exclusively with Herbal Agriculture’s application, after considering other applicants who had approached them. Herbal Agriculture is owned by some owners of Modern Disposal and has a greenhouse in Lewiston.

Joel Stanley, one of six brothers involved in the business and the CEO, said he visited the area on Friday to urge the state to give serious consideration to Herbal Agriculture’s application.

Stanley Brothers produces a cannabis-based oil called Charlotte’s Web that has gained recognition for its use in treating severe epilepsy in children. Joel Stanley said Herbal Agriculture has the financial wherewithal, acreage and infrastructure and agricultural experience necessary to successfully enter the business.

Stanley Brothers would have an exclusive licensing agreement in New York State with Herbal Agriculture, similar to relationships Stanley Brothers has formed in other states. Joel Stanley said if Herbal Agriculture’s application is approved, Stanley Brothers’ nonprofit foundation, Realm of Caring, would work with Dent on research to treat a variety of disorders.

Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, Dent’s medical director, said the relationship would help advance research into medical marijuana, something that has been difficult to do in light of federal government restrictions. “I’m promoting the treatment for medical disorders that need to be treated,” Mechtler said.

The state Department of Health could reveal the winners of its medical marijuana selection process any day now.

The department received a total of 43 applications under the Compassionate Care Act. The state will license five companies to operate four dispensaries each throughout the state, and the five businesses chosen must have their products ready to sell by early January. The department reiterated Friday that it expects to make a decision in “mid July” but would not specify a date.

The state has not released details identifying how many of the 43 applicants have Western New York ties, but some other local applicants are also known to be in the mix.

They include Far(me)d, formed by two Cheektowaga eye surgeons, Dr. Amarjit S. Atwal and his son, Dr. Ephraim S. Atwal, who have proposed a grow facility in Wilson. Another applicant is Alternative Medical Associates, which includes Daniel J. Humiston, the founder of the Tanning Bed chain, and Dr. Gregory Daniel, the former CEO of WNY Immediate Care. That group wants to open a grow facility inside the former Tyson Foods plant in Buffalo.

Another applicant, based on Long Island, said its economic analysis found that the state’s medical marijuana program could eventually generate more than $1 billion in economic activity for the state, fueled by a need for high-tech manufacturing operations to meet the state’s standards.